Is your business ready for an apprentice? If you're like most small business owners, taking on an apprentice is something that has never been high on your list of things to do. The perception is that apprenticeships take time and energy - two things that are in short supply for people who busy trying to keep a company afloat.
An apprentice might be just what your business needs to take it to the next level. Then again, a poorly-conceived apprenticeship program can be the straw that breaks your company's back. Before you make the decision to bring an apprentice onboard, you first need to understand the reason why you might want an apprentice and the benefits an apprenticeship can offer.
Why an apprentice?
There are a lot of reasons why a small business owner might want to start an apprenticeship program. But not all of them are the right reasons. For example, vanity is never the right reason to take on an apprentice. The idea of mentoring a protégé might sound flattering now, but the reality of an apprenticeship is something entirely different. Effective apprenticeships require dedication, commitment, and hard work on both sides. If you aren't up for the challenge, then an apprenticeship is not a good idea.
If the commitment doesn't scare you, you should know that the single biggest benefit of taking on an apprentice is that it provides an opportunity to train someone to meet the specific needs of your company. It also creates a perfect environment for the apprentice to develop the skill set he will need to work on your behalf.
What's in it for you?
The primary benefit you can expect to receive from an apprenticeship is the productivity of an individual that has been custom-trained for your company. This is particularly important if your company specializes in providing highly technical or unique products and services.
A secondary benefit of an apprenticeship is that you can train someone else to cover your position in your absence. This may seem like a small point, but a qualified apprentice can free your time for vacations and out-of-town business events that would otherwise have been impossible to attend.
What's in it for the apprentice?
The benefits for the apprentice are fairly obvious. An apprenticeship provides young and inexperienced workers with access to the experience of a wise and seasoned professional (a.k.a. you). It may also set them on a career fast track because the skills they will learn are presumably important ones for the company's success.
Unlike an intern, apprentices are usually viewed as long-term employees. Even so, apprenticeships don't last forever. It isn't unreasonable for apprentices to expect a written plan outlining the framework of the apprenticeship program, its length, and what they can expect when the apprenticeship is over.